Proverbs 4:23 teaches us that the “springs of life” flow out of the human heart. Our thoughts, desires, and even the motivations deep inside us determine the direction of our life’s various springs. For this reason, the members of the church plant must maintain right motives for church planting. If we move across the country to plant a church for the wrong reasons, all our hopeful endeavors will be frustrated, burdensome, disappointing, and unfulfilling. At our last core team gathering (for the New Orleans plant), we discussed eleven wrong motivations for church planting. In this first article, I’ll share six of them.
1. Discontentment. Don’t plant a church for tertiary benefits — a lower cost of living, a bigger house, a better job, a smaller church, etc. Seeking to improve temporal circumstances is not a good reason to plant a church. Besides, who knows what tomorrow has in store or how life will look as a member of the church plant? Certainty of a better life tomorrow, James tells us, is arrogant (Jas. 4:13-16).
2. Aimlessness. Don’t plant a church because you don’t know what to do at your current church. Church planting is no solution to failing to serve where you are currently. Moreover, if you don’t know how to use your time, resources, and gifting for the good of Christ’s body now, then church planting won’t magically resolve such aimlessness and confusion.
3. Restlessness. Don’t plant a church because you’re eager to just do something (anything) else. Some people get restless after being in the same church, the same city, or the same job for too long. A seasoned pastor recently told me that when it comes to church planting, “Don’t think in terms of years. Think in terms of decades.” Faithfulness over time (often times a very long time!) is what it will take to establish a faithful church. Restless people who cannot labor tirelessly for an indefinite period of time will be a liability, not an asset, to a church plant.
4. Spiritual Apathy. Don’t plant a church because you’ve been in a spiritually dry season and need something to jump start your passion for Christ again. What you are here is what you will be there. If you’re not winning the battle for holiness and love for the Lord now, the solution is not to join a fledgling ministry elsewhere. Instead, zeal is the inevitable fruit borne from consistent submission to God’s word as we choose to believe Him above our strongest inclinations, opinions, and emotions. Church plants need men and women who can resolve their spiritual apathy with truth, not with new ministry opportunities.
5. The Glory of Urban Ministry. Don’t plant a church because you think that urban ministry is more praiseworthy than other kinds of ministry. Ministering in the inner city where people are generally poorer, less educated, and live in more dangerous neighborhoods can easily be exalted above ministry in other cultural contexts. But successful gospel ministry happened in Ephesus and Rome as well as Philippi and Thessalonica, in Corinth as well as in Jerusalem. “But each will receive his own reward according to his labor” (1 Cor. 3:8, emphasis added), not according to the environment in which he ministers.
6. Just Tagging Along. Don’t plant a church because of the other people going. Perhaps you are a part of a household unit that intends to plant a church. Perhaps, as a child or as an aging parent, you don’t have much of a choice in the decision to plant or not. Regardless, if you are a Christian, then you have an obligation to Christ to contribute to the church’s spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:15-16). And you have also graciously been given gifts by God’s Spirit to help mature the body (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:12). Don’t miss out on the eternal rewards given to those who labor well by merely tagging along with others.
Next time, we’ll look at five more wrong motivations for church planting.